This post was originally published on 9/2/13 and was updated on 8/16/18.
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Ah…it’s almost that wonderful time of year again…the start of Autumn leaves, cooler evenings, Pumpkin Spice Lattes…
Or at least that’s what they’re saying on Facebook.
Because I live in Florida, where the leaves stay green year round, we wear shorts on Christmas, and we drink our Pumpkin Lattes iced.
Don’t get me wrong – we do get some cold days here in Northeast Florida. I think we even got down to about 30 degrees a few times last winter. When I ran my first marathon in February 2013, we had a low of 34 degrees (that was super fun at the starting line) and a high of only 53. But that was unusual – historically, the low temps are about 50 degrees in February, with highs in the low 70’s. (And by the way, the temperature shot all the way up to 85 degrees just 6 days after the marathon. Did I mention that our weather here is crazy?)
Luckily, I was well prepared for the cold. If I look a little bulky in the photo above, it’s because I was wearing two pairs of pants and 3 long sleeve layers over my singlet. But that day was an anomaly. Running in Florida means running in hot weather 80% of the year (I totally made that statistic up but you get the point). Here are some of the things I learned as a Florida runner about keeping safe while running in the heat:
Running in the Heat + Humidity
1. Pick the right time of day. Ideally, you should run early in the morning, before the sun rises. My Galloway group meets most Saturdays at 6:00 a.m. And yes, getting up at 4:45 on a Saturday morning sucks. But trust me, it’s a must. Here’s what I look like after only 3.6 miles at 11:00 a.m.
Not a pretty sight. If you can’t run early, run as late in the evening as possible. But be smart about running in the dark. Run with a friend, carry or wear a light, and wear light colored and reflective clothing.
2. Run in the shade. If you have to run while the sun is up, try to plan a route with as much shade as possible. If you’re really smart, you’ll do this ahead of time so you don’t wind up stuck in the blazing sun with no place to find relief.
3. Run indoors. I may be in the minority here, but I actually enjoy running on a treadmill just as much as running outdoors. Two words, my friends – air conditioning. Plus, let’s face it. It’s not always easy for moms with young kids to find time alone to run in the early mornings or late evenings. I can’t leave them alone in the house in the morning, and by the time it starts to cool down in the evenings, it’s time to get them ready for bed. So when outdoor running isn’t possible, I head to the gym, drop the kids off in the childcare center, and enjoy a nice, air conditioned run. Bonus – I get to watch whatever I want on TV! That alone is worth the gym membership.
4. Dress for the weather. Wear light colored, loose fitting clothes. And don’t wear cotton! Stick with synthetic, moisture wicking clothes that do exactly what the name implies – “wick the moisture away” so that you stay dry. Cotton does the opposite – it absorbs moisture and will keep you wet, which can cause chafing & blisters & lots of other fun stuff. Don’t forget to keep this in mind when choosing your socks, too. Cotton socks + sweaty feet = painful blisters. Trust me, this is bad. Very bad.
5. Wear sunglasses. UV exposure can lead to serious, even debilitating vision problems. And squinting causes wrinkles! The answer? Wear sunglasses that block UV radiation and protect your eyes. (*More on this in a minute.)
6. Don’t wear a hat. Yeah, I know I’m wearing hats in some of my running pictures. So you’ll have to just take my word for it, okay? You lose most of your body heat through the top of your head, so covering it will cause a quicker internal buildup of heat. Wear a visor instead. The brim will help shield your eyes and your face from the sun without covering the top of your head. If you do wear a hat, be sure to wear one designed for athletes and made from moisture wicking fabrics.
7. Prevent chafing. This can be a major problem while running in hot weather. OUCH. One of the biggest things you can do to prevent chafing is to avoid wearing cotton clothing or socks. Stick with synthetic materials. You can also apply anti-chafing products like visor, Vaseline, or sports tape to the areas where you tend to chafe. If you chafe between your legs, wear visor under your running shorts or skirt. My two biggest problem areas are my feet and the insides of my arms (where they rub against my boobs when I swing my arms). I use a combination of sports tape and anti-chafing products to keep me more comfortable.
8. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! It’s always important to hydrate properly before any kind of running, but this is especially critical when running in hot weather. Start hydrating before you run and bring water and/or an electrolyte drink with you on your run. I love Gatorade, but there are many beverages to choose from. You can find several different types of drink holders, from handheld bottles to hydration vests and everything in between. It’s really a personal choice, and you might have to try out a few before you find the one that works for you.
9. Know the signs of heat problems – and know your body! When running, if you become dizzy, disoriented, nauseated, have the chills, or stop sweating…STOP RUNNING! Find some shade, take a drink, and rest. Heatstroke occurs when the body fails to regulate its own temperature. It’s a scary, life threatening medical emergency and requires immediate medical treatment. Know your body and know your limits. Everyone is different. My husband can run for miles in the midday sun without any problems. But I’ve found that I become overheated fairly easily in the peak of summer. Sometimes even though I’m well-hydrated and running comfortably, I start to get chills all over my body. This is my body’s signal that it’s time for a break, and now that I know this, I always listen.
Your body will begin to adjust to running in higher temperatures. It will probably take you about two weeks to acclimate, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to train for races in warmer climates.